Fake news in this country is a very real threat to our democracy and our civility.
We are not talking about fake news as President Donald Trump and several other politicians define it: news that they disagree with or that makes them look bad.
We are talking about the intentional sharing of incorrect, altered or made-up stories and photos for the purpose of shaping people’s thinking on a certain topic.
The latest example concerns the Parkland, Fla., students who have been advocating for gun control since the shooting at their high school in February.
As part of that activism, Emma Gonzalez—one of the most vocal students since the shooting—posed for a photo while ripping apart a gun-range target for a Teen Vogue story. That image was photo-shopped to show Gonzalez ripping the U.S. Constitution in half and was shared thousands of times on social media.
Whether you agree with Gonalez and the other students or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that decisions be made on the basis of fact, reason and logic and not because of emotional reactions to intentionally inflammatory falsehoods.
The tactic of altering or making up news is not limited to one political party. Organizations on both sides have used these methods to rile up their base.
Social media can be a great way for people to connect, but it can become an echo chamber for people who are willing to accept and share posts without digging to see if they’re accurate.
Because of social media’s shortcomings and the lack of accountability for things that are posted there, the actual media is more important than ever.
We need reputable news outlets that will uncover misdeeds, hold people accountable and publish the truth—no matter whether it upsets one political party or the other. And we need every citizen to be skeptical of things they see on social media—whether they agree or disagree—until they can verify its accuracy.